Finding a Path

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I've always questioned myself. I'm not entirely sure why. It could be the state education, where I was treated as a problem case from the day I was taken there... it could be the abandonment issues, my mom having decided that her personal life was more important than her own daughter...

It could be the fact that I'm completely on my own, and that the only person I've ever come to depend on died when I was eight. It doesn't really matter, since the end result is the same.

No matter what I think, say, or do... it's never good enough. It never satisfies the people I'm trying so hard to please, never helps me escape the lonely little girl I've always been, never gives me a chance for the better future that I know I'm capable of building for myself...

I've never really figured out what I want. Or what people want from me.

I spent eight years of my life in state-approved foster care facilities. Even there, I was shunted from place to place as things changed. Either the people I was staying with ran out of funding, or they moved elsewhere and felt they didn't need to bring me along... or they just didn't understand why I was such a 'problem case,' and had me returned like a pet that couldn't be house-trained. By the time I was sixteen I'd had enough of people deciding my future for me, and just ran off.

That was four years ago now, and I've been drifting through the state ever since. I don't have or need a driver's license (an ID would've gotten me caught anyway), I keep a reasonable cash supply by hiring myself out wherever I can... and I keep moving, before anyone can decide that I need to be 'taken care of.'

I could've stopped. I'm twenty years old now, and aside from running away when I was still a minor I'm completely clean of criminal charges. There's nothing anyone can do to put me back where I was.

So why am I still wandering? What keeps me from settling in and rebuilding my life? It'd take work, since I don't have any of the records I'd need for a legitimate job, a place to live, or even to get a state ID. I'd have to work for all of those things, and more. And even then... OOF!

I turned on my back and sat up, looking for whatever had tripped me. When I found it, I almost cried.

It was part of an old wooden gateway, the type that welcome you to places like 'AKA Ranch' or 'Erehwon Farms.' The part I'd tripped over though... was a very familiar old sign.

'Barley Ranch: Open from...' I couldn't make out the rest. The piece of weathered wood was broken and rotted, and even in my hands fell apart. But it had served its purpose, telling me where I was, and awakening memories of a better time.

As I remembered those days... so long ago now that I can't even tell if they were a dream or not... days when I was young, sweet, innocent... too innocent really... things clicked.

I've always questioned myself. But coming home to the remains of my grandpa's ranch, seeing the remains of the better part of my life here and now... only one thought came to mind.

I'm home, grandpa. And I'm never leaving this place again.

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Written for The Village Square forum's writing contest.